Eden Hazard will not be at the level he was at last season when he makes his Chelsea return, warns team-mate Thibaut Courtois.
Belgium qualified for next year’s World Cup with victories over Gibraltar and Greece during the international break, with Hazard making substitute appearances in both fixtures despite not having played a minute of Chelsea’s season thus far.
Hazard has been on the sidelines for the Blues since undergoing ankle surgery this summer after fracturing it on international duty in June, and Courtois urged patience when it comes to his club and international team-mate’s return – which could come against Leicester City on Saturday.
“He is ready, he is doing well and is ready to play,” Courtois told Sky Sports News. “But we cannot forget he was injured for four months, he had surgery.
“You cannot expect – if he plays on Saturday, which is up to the manager – if he gets minutes you will see his quality but maybe he is not at his top form like he was last season and you cannot forget that.
“You have to go little by little I think. We are excited to have him back and I was happy to have him on the pitch with me against Gibraltar and Greece.
“I hope we can see the best Eden Hazard very soon.”
Chelsea could hand debuts to Deadline Day signings Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta this weekend, with Antonio Conte having been frustrated in his pursuit of other targets during the summer window.
Fernando Llorente (Tottenham), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool) and Ross Barkley (Everton) all opted against moves to Stamford Bridge, but Courtois insists the Chelsea squad is good enough for their season targets.
“The market now is a bit crazy,” said Courtois. “Really high prices for players who maybe don’t have that value. It makes it hard for teams to buy players for the right price.
“But after all I think Chelsea did a good job and I think we have a good squad to face the season.”